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Budd Peaslee – Part 6

One of the subjects I have neglected for the past six months is my series of posts on 384th Bomb Group Commander Budd Peaslee. I’d like to finish up the series before the end of the year, so the next several posts will be all about Budd Peaslee.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

The 384th Bomb Group joined the Eighth Air Force flying missions over Europe in the first week of June 1943 with thirty-five combat crews. Replacement bombers and replacement crews would be added as original crews failed to return. In the first three months of operation, forty-two 384th Bomb Group bombers failed to return from missions over Europe, representing a 120% loss. At this time in the war, a flyer’s tour was defined as twenty-five missions.

In his book, Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee offers insights into WWII, and air war in general, that I have never seen from any other source. The following is a paragraph from Peaslee’s book.

Recorded history has little to say about great air battles or significant happenings of aerial combat. As an army or navy moves ponderously across the surface of the earth there is time to record the strategy of its generals or admirals. There is even time to speculate on their thoughts and motives, and to make analysis of their decisions. And there is time to record and reward great acts of heroism and courage, and to condemn and punish cowardice and error. But with an air force, although the drama and heroics are undeniably present, the occurrence is condensed in time and expanded in space to such an extent that the record of significant decision is lost forever to the world. That there are momentous occasions – as an air force moves from deep in the friendly zone, mounts into the firmament, crosses multiple sea and mountain barriers and national boundaries, to penetrate in a few hours to the very heartland of the enemy and there to strike a devastating blow – let no one doubt. That these deeds are lost to history and to the people is the unfortunate penalty of the era of speed that will become worse, never better.

As a heavy bomb group commander based in England, in the summer of 1943, Peaslee identified another enemy of the 8th Air Force, or at the very least an obstacle to a successful air war, poor weather conditions.

In these early months of day bombardment, success was dependent almost wholly on a favorable weather situation, not only over the bases where the bombers must rise and assemble into formation and to which they must return, but also along the routes and in the target area. In truth the weather had turned out to be the greatest enemy of the American scheme and until it was defeated, or at least neutralized to a great extent, the effectiveness of daylight operation with massive striking forces against precision targets was open to serious and skeptical scrutiny.

During that same summer, Peaslee recalls a particular mission in his book, Mission 9 on July 24, 1943.

24 July 1943, Heroya, Norway (Industry)
Back L-R: Lt. Brown (OBS/TG), SSgt. William O’Donnell (LWG), SSgt Fred Wagner (RO), Lt. Charles Bonnett (B), Lt. James Martin-Vegue (N), SSgt James Self (RWG), Lt. James Merritt (CP)
Front L-R: TSgt. George Ursta (BT), Lt. John DuBois (N), TSgt David Cochran (TT), Col. Budd Peaslee (P)
Aircraft: B-17F 544th BS 42-5883 SU*D No Name Jive/Weary Willie
Source: The Quentin Bland Collection via the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery.

The bombing at Heroya has passed into history and is rarely recalled, except by those who made the trip and who still survive. To them it was the most successful and shrewedly planned and executed mission of the entire war.

384th Bomb Group veteran Burnia Martin flew that mission. I met Burnia at the 8th Air Force reunion in New Orleans this year, but wasn’t aware of his participation in that mission, and missed my opportunity to hear about it in person.

Burnia Martin then…

Burnia Martin
Photo courtesy of the Quentin Bland Collection via the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Burnia Martin now…

Burnia Martin, September 2017

To be continued…


“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving! Today, I’ll take a brief look back at Thanksgiving at Grafton Underwood during WWII.

It seems that even with a war going on, the men of the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England followed the American tradition of a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Grafton Underwood cooks carving turkey
Photo courtesy of Tony Plowright

I found this interesting photo in the 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery this week.

S/Sgt. William D. Johnson leads an informal discussion on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1943, with school children at the Church of England School, Sudborough, Northamptonshire
Photo provided by both Robert Bletscher and Quentin Bland

William D. Johnson was a Quartermaster Supply Technician with the 6th Service Squadron. Johnson was twenty-eight years old at the time and was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent Thanksgiving 1943 at war and away from home and wanted to share the story of this American holiday with the English schoolchildren.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Collings Foundation 2017 Tour Stop in Leesburg

The first weekend in November, the Collings Foundation brought their WWII aircraft to Leesburg, Florida. My 384th Bomb Group pilot friend, John DeFrancesco, and I drove down from Ocala on Saturday to see the planes, especially the B-17G.

The Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

It was a beautiful Florida Fall day to be at the Leesburg airport checking out the planes. The Collings Foundation’s B-17G was the same model my dad and John flew in WWII.

Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

The Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Nine-O-Nine and Consolidated B-24J Liberator Witchcraft were both open for walk-through tours and the North American TP-51C Mustang Toulouse Nuts was also on display. Rides were available, for a price, on all three. John and I first checked out the Nine-O-Nine, getting a good look at the Flying Fortress up close.

John DeFrancesco with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

We went from the nose, to the ball turret…

Ball turret of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

…and from the ball turret to the tail.

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Then I just had to have a look inside. I have probably walked through the Nine-O-Nine close to fifty times, but I never get tired of exploring this plane that was such an important part of my dad’s history. After entering through the nose hatch, I got a good look inside the nose with the Bombardier’s seat and bombsight and the Navigator’s desk.

Nose position of the navigator and bombardier of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Next, I crossed back past the nose hatch toward the cockpit…

Front hatch and route from the nose to the cockpit and back of the Fortress of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

…and took a look at the Pilot’s and Co-pilot’s seats and instruments. The Pilot, like John, would have been seated on the left with the Co-pilot on the right.

Cockpit of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Heading toward the back of the plane, I stopped to look up through the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner’s position…

Top turret view of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

…and then crossed the catwalk through the bomb bay.

Bomb Bay of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

On the other side of the bomb bay, I entered the radio room.

Entry of the radio room from the bomb bay catwalk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Entering the room, the Radio Operator’s desk is on the left side of the plane, but the entire radio room is filled with his equipment.

Radio operator’s desk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Continuing on toward the tail, the ball turret lies just past the radio room where the Ball Turret Gunner would have been squeezed inside for the entire mission except for taking off and landing…

Ball turret and waist area of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

…and just past the ball turret lies the waist area with waist windows and mounted machine guns on each side. I always picture my dad standing at his position as the Right Waist Gunner. Early in the war, a Left Waist Gunner would have stood at the left waist window, but later in the war, the Radio Operator manned the left waist gun. At the rear of the waist area is the tail gunner’s position.

Waist area of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Sitting across the tarmac was the B-24 Witchcraft. I have walked through Witchcraft many times, but this day I missed the walk-through tour.

The Collings Foundation’s B-24 Witchcraft In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

John and I checked out the P-51 Mustang, Toulouse Nuts, too.

John DeFrancesco with the Collings Foundation’s WWII Mustang Toulouse Nuts In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

After a couple of hours admiring the planes and talking to several other visitors to the Collings tour, it was time for the Nine-O-Nine’s last flight before leaving for the tour’s next stop. I was lucky enough to take a flight a couple of years ago, so this time I kept my feet on the ground and recorded videos. John, however, was getting a ride on the Nine-O-Nine and took to the skies with Leesburg’s last group of the day.

Standing in front of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G “Nine-O-Nine” before their flight are left to right: Bill Campbell, John DeFrancesco, Robert Arserio, Oscar I. “Chip” Chenoweth with grandson Levi Barnes, John Marteeny, and Sonny Rohm

William “Bill” Campbell wanted to fly the B-17 to honor a friend’s dad who was a gunner on a B-17 crew in WWII and to get a taste of what it was like to fly on one. But Bill had also wanted to fly a P-51 Mustang since the late 1950’s, when he attended air-sea rescue training with the West Virginia Air National Guard at Kanawha Airport (now Yeager Airport). There were P-51’s in the same squadron while he was there, but they were being phased out, and he never had the opportunity to take one up. So earlier this day, before Bill had his flight in the B-17, he was strapped into the Mustang for a half hour of flight training. Bill, an experienced pilot, had the time of his life performing loops, rolls, inverted flight, and other aerobatics in the WWII fighter plane. A P-51 and a B-17 flight the same day? I guess it just doesn’t get any better than that.

John DeFrancesco was a B-17 pilot in the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force and was stationed at Grafton Underwood, England during WWII. John finished his thirty-five required missions with a bail out over Germany on January 8, 1945. After his POW liberation and the end of WWII, John remained in the Air Force Active Reserves until the late 1960’s when he went into the Inactive Reserves. In 1984, John retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. You can read more about John here.

Robert B. Arserio, a retired Air Force Captain, heard many stories of the WWII bombers when he was stationed with the US Air Force at RAF Upper Heyford in England in the mid-1970’s. His father served in the US Army in WWII and was in the first occupational forces in Japan stationed in Yokohama. Robert sees the Warbirds almost yearly on their Florida tour and first flew on the Nine-O-Nine with his son twenty years ago in Boca Raton.

Oscar I. “Chip” Chenoweth brought his grandson Levi Barnes out to see the Warbirds and take a ride on the B-17. Both of Chip’s parents were pilots. His father was a navy ace who flew in the Aleutians at the battle of Attu with the VC-21 and then transferred to the VF-17 (known as Blackburn’s Irregulars) in the south Pacific.  Chip’s mother was Miss Miami Aviation at the 1939 World’s Fair. Chip’s mother and father went out on their first date December 6, 1941, the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Levi took his first-ever flight in a Skylane 172 in October and eleven days later he took his second flight on the Nine-O-Nine with his great-grandfather’s squadron patch in his shirt pocket. I know his great-grandparents would have been proud.

John Marteeny wanted to take a ride on the Flying Fortress because his father, Donald Marteeny, was an Armorer in a B-17 bomb group, the 97th, in England, North Africa, and Italy from 1942 to 1944 during WWII.  The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force’s first heavy bomber mission from Grafton Underwood, England when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on August 17, 1942. In September 1942, the 97th Bomb Group was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the Mediterranean theater, and later was assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy.

After the 97th Bomb Group moved out of Grafton Underwood, the 384th Bomb Group moved in. Grafton Underwood is the same base from which John DeFrancesco and my dad, George Edwin Farrar, flew their missions with the 384th. 

Sonny Rohm has loved the B-17 since he was twelve and at sixty-nine decided it was time to take a ride on one. He also wanted to pay tribute to the brave men who flew them into battle during WWII and to the WWII Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) who ferried new planes from factories to military bases, tested newly overhauled planes, and towed targets for gunnery practice (with live ammunition).

The Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-O-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

We would all like to thank you, Collings Foundation, for bringing your Warbirds to Central Florida. And we’d like to offer a special thanks for a truly memorable flight aboard the Nine-O-Nine to Tour Flight Coordinator Jamie Mitchell and Crew Chief André . We all had an exceptional day and we can’t wait till next year!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

An Italian-American Airman in WWII

384th Bomb Group veteran John DeFrancesco is a WWII rock star. He has been the subject of several magazine and newspaper articles and is now set to appear on Italian television. Both of John’s parents were from Italy. John’s father immigrated with his family when he was fourteen years old and served in the American Army in WWI, earning his American citizenship. John’s mother was also born in Italy and immigrated with her family when she was very young.

Italian Air Force veteran and journalist Vittorio Argento recently visited Florida to interview John about his role as an Italian-American B-17 pilot in WWII.

Vittorio currently works with the Department of Safety and Security for Italy’s national radio/television public broadcasting company, RAI. He is a veteran journalist who has worked in television and daily newspapers and was previously Deputy Managing Director for RAI Radio News. In 2016, Vittorio served as the Prix Italia’s (an international Italian television, radio-broadcasting and website award program) Secretary General.

Vittorio Argento looking at some of John DeFrancesco’s WWII documents

Vittorio has a personal interest in WWII history and has restored two WWII jeeps. You can read about Vittorio’s adventure to bring a 1943 Willys back to its Ohio factory from Italy here.

Vittorio Argento’s 1943 Willys Jeep

At John’s interview, Vittorio presented him with a beautiful plaque of the Italian Air Force. “Virtute Siderum Tenus” translates to “With Valor to the Stars”.

L to R: John DeFrancesco and Vittorio Argento

As a result of his interview, John will be the subject of two television programs in Italy and an article in the Italian Air Force magazine.

I enjoyed Vittorio’s visit with us and he has sparked an interest in my husband and me to visit Italy. My passport is ready, my phone is loaded with Google Translate for Italian, and, most importantly, I am shopping for travel shoes.

L to R: John DeFrancesco, Cindy Bryan, and Vittorio Argento sporting 384th Bomb Group caps

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

French Jubilee of Liberty Medal

Dad’s Jubilee of Liberty Medal

On June 6, 1994, the French government commemorated the 50th anniversary of D-Day (the invasion by the Allied forces of Normandy on June 6, 1944) by distributing the French Jubilee of Liberty medal to U.S. veterans who participated in the Normandy campaign. The medal was first awarded to American servicemen for their participation in the Battle of Normandy. They were minted at the request of the Regional Council of Normandy to be presented to the veterans attending the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing. Eligible veterans included those who served in the Normandy campaign from June 6 to August 31, 1944, and were part of the of land forces, off-shore personnel, or airmen flying overhead. The first medals awarded were those presented in the anniversary ceremony to the veterans attending.

The French government no longer awards the Jubilee of Liberty medal. However, they have granted the 8th Air Force Historical Society approval to mint and distribute the medal to eligible veterans or the families of eligible deceased veterans who qualify for the award. A certificate accompanies the medal.

My Dad’s Jubilee of Liberty Medal and Certificate

The certificate reads:

Jubilee of Liberty Medal

The Jubilee of Liberty Medal is presented in grateful recognition of your contribution in the liberation of France. Your participation in the invasion of Normandy is a testament to your commitment to the freedom so many have fought and continue to fight for, every day. Your honorable service to the United States is commendable and will never be forgotten.

Thank you for all that you have done for France, the United States, and the world.

It is with great gratitude and extreme honor that I proudly present

the Jubilee of Liberty Medal to Normandy Veteran:

George E Farrar, 384th Bomb Group

The front of the medal is inscribed with “Overlord 6 Juin 1944” on the upper part of the medal, with the flags of the Allied nations and the names of the landing beaches completing the face of the medal.

Dad’s Jubilee of Liberty Medal, front

The reverse of the medal shows the Torch of Freedom surrounded by the device of William the Conqueror “Diex Aie” (“God is with us” in Norman French).

Dad’s Jubilee of Liberty Medal, back

Dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated in the Normandy campaign with the 384th Bomb Group in August 1944, which made him eligible for the award. I applied for the Jubilee of Liberty medal for him as soon as I found the application instructions in the September 2017 issue of the 8th Air Force News. As I hold this medal in my hand, it becomes more than metal and ribbon. It is a reminder for me of my dad’s service to our country and his fight for not only our freedom, but France’s and the free world.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017